"By increasing staff, expanding hours, and broadening the use of technology, we can increase the number of citizens we can serve each day and reduce wait times." -- Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (pictured)

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, said in an audio message on her Web site, that the state has reached a 25-year high 10.6 percent unemployment rate.

Wednesday Granholm outlined additional steps that state departments and agencies, including the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG), the Office of the State Employer, the Department of Management and Budget, and the Department of Information Technology are taking to expand services for workers and businesses being impacted. Department and agency leaders announced additional expanded hours, new technology and additional service options.

"Working men and women who have felt the impact of this recession through job loss shouldn't also have to deal with long lines and delays in receiving their unemployment benefits," said Granholm. "Since this challenge began, we have been working to expand the system to meet the rising demand and will continue to seek creative solutions until every citizen's needs are met."

Traditionally, December and early January are among the busiest times for Michigan's UIA with seasonal layoffs in the auto and supplier industries and retail trade. These seasonal factors combined with recession-induced high unemployment and two federal unemployment benefit extensions have resulted in higher than anticipated call volumes.

Granholm announced a series of measures to handle the volume of unemployment applicants including:

  • In addition to the 50 staff hired last July, UIA is hiring another 276 employees to staff Remote Initial Claims Centers (RICCs) and Problem Resolution Offices (PROs), beginning January 26.
  • RICCs, which are call centers, will remain open three hours longer each day, until 6:00 p.m. on weekdays.
  • PROs will be open two additional hours each day, and staff will work each night until 7:30 p.m. to process additional claims.
  • Expanded hours for automated telephone system (MARVIN), including adding availability on Saturdays, beginning January 29.
  • Opening an additional call center in Lansing that will add an additional 200 lines to assist citizens.
  • Launching an Internet version of MARVIN, allowing individuals to certify for their benefits online instead of by telephone, beginning January 21.
  • Adding additional computer servers to enable the UIA to process up to five times the normal volume of claims filed electronically, effective immediately.
  • Adding additional server capacity to the UIA's online Web account system for unemployed workers, which allows them to check the status of their claims online to further reduce call volume, beginning January 26.
  • Adding further mainframe capacity to increase the number of claims that can be processed during the day.
  • Seeking and receiving union agreement to contract with former and retired agency staff who can quickly come on board to assist.
  • Increasing already mandatory overtime for all UIA staff -- compulsory nine-hour work days and three Saturdays per month, beginning January 26.
  • Re-assigning current DELEG staff to assist the UIA with adjudications.
  • Enhancing the Employer Web Account Management (EWAM) system to allow employers to manage their accounts online, including free access to the UIA employer handbook to promote online services.
  • Condensing training for new staff hires to one week with supplemental on-the-job training and expanded training hours including evenings and weekends.

The expanded services announced Wednesday will supplement earlier steps taken, including the hiring of 90 temporary staff, opening an additional PRO in Detroit, re-deployment of some DELEG staff to assist UIA efforts, requiring mandatory overtime for call center staff, and added additional computer server capacity.

"In this time of severe economic challenge, more citizens than ever are in need, and we must do all we can to provide them with the assistance they need," said Granholm. "By increasing staff, expanding hours, and broadening the use of technology, we can increase the number of citizens we can serve each day and reduce wait times."

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government